In her view on ethics, Hursthouse is seen to abandon the traditional utilitarianism and deontology aspects in favor of virtue ethics. This is the view that focuses on justifying an action based on what a virtuous and kind person would do and does not focus on consequence or moral standards. On abortion, Hursthouse clearly states that her line of thinking does not tell us what to do, but rather directs us to think like a righteous person (Hursthouse, 1991). In her argument, Hursthouse argues that women's rights do not matter in considering whether abortion is right or wrong. In my opinion, this is a correct incursion. This is because a right to your own body does not give one the right to harm others.
The Author's article argues that the right of a woman to her body does not give her enough moral ground to carry out an abortion. This is because in carrying out an abortion, the woman may be acting within her own moral right, but is acting against the right of the unborn child. Thus, if carried out purely for the sake of the fact that the woman has the right to her womb, abortion can be considered as a callous and selfish act (Reiman, 1999). This is because in a moral point of view, the woman only considers her own interests in making the decision to abort the baby. Therefore, the action of abortion on the basis of women's rights though within human rights, does not count in the moral justification of abortion. This may be explained by the famous adage that, My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.
It is also important to take into account that in a moral perspective, the issue of pregnancy is not a one sided argument. In this case, it is important to realize that pregnancy is unlike a hair on your head that one decides on whether to cut or not but has varied implications. This is because the decision to abort is a multi-consequence decision. Abortion has an effect to the mother, the child, the society and even to the father of the child. Even on a personal level, abortion has varied effects on the mother alone. Therefore, in the making of decisions on abortion, I concur with the author that the issue of the rights of the mother on her body must be ignored and instead the implications that arise from abortion be instead considered in the determination of morality of the deed.
Some philosophers and feminists argue that the right of a mother to abort should be considered no less than the right of a property owner to kick out a trespasser from his or her property. Thus it is concluded that abortion is purely dependent on the host even though the dependent has the right to life (Thomson). However, as Hursthouse explains, this kind of thinking is flawed. The argument first fails to consider how intentional the pregnancy was. In this case, it is important to consider the fact that the woman might have actually intentionally participated either by action or by ignorance to the conception of the fetus. Therefore, it cannot be concluded that it is morally right to terminate the pregnancy. In another instance, even if the child was not intentionally conceived, aborting the child purely on the ground that the pregnancy was unintentional would be like chasing away a hungry person from your premises or turning down a child abandoned in your doorstep. Therefore, using women right as a conclusive base on the moral justification of abortion is not permeable. Thus in a moral standing, consideration should be based majorly on other factors other than the fact that it is a human right.
In her article, Hursthouse shows that what she thinks is supremely important in the moral consideration of whether to perform abortion is the impact of it on human life and not the aspect in human rights. She argues that considering abortion to have only a singular consequence is not to take a virtuous attitude towards the subject. For if only women rights were to be considered, the fact that a human life is being terminated would be ignored. This would be to show a callous and light attitude towards the subject. To make the point clear, she reminds us that those who make the same claim about abortion would have a contrary opinion if a miscarriage was to occur. This would show moral inconsistency on the matter. Thus, she proves that women right are a nonentity when it comes to the moral decision on whether an abortion is well founded or not.
Hursthouse further goes on to explain that basing the decision to abort on women rights is not entirely exhaustive. In the case that the aforementioned woman has no desire to abort, abortion might be made necessary not by her decision, but from other factors. This is because a pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspect of her life. It affects her body, her education, her family, her employment among many other factors. Thus, a mother might have the desire and will to keep her pregnancy but be forced to do otherwise due to other more pressing factors, and still be within her moral right.
In conclusion, a great deal turns for women on whether abortion is necessary or not. If denied, then a constraint is imposed on the freedom of women to act in a way that is of great importance to them, both for its own sake and for the sake of achievement of equality (Thomson J. J.). However, this should not be the moral basis on which to justify carrying out abortion.
Hursthouse, R. (1991). Virtue Theory and Abortion. Philosophy and Public Affairs.
Reiman, J. H. (1999). Abortion and the Ways We Value Human Life. Oxford: Rowman and Litterfield Publishers INC.
Thomson, J. J. (n.d.). A Defense of Abortion. The Plobrem of Abortion.
Thomson, J. J. (n.d.). Abortion and Women Rights. (BBC, Interviewer)
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